If you don’t object to autistic headcanons, this letter is not about you. If you personally dislike them but don’t harass people on the internet and make this known, this letter also isn’t about you, although it might be worth a read. This is specifically about the (mostly neurotypical) people who claim autistic headcanons are somehow offensive, as the author is ‘romanticising’ or ‘trivialising’ autism and using it as a character trait or quirk.
This tends to be the biggest complaint about autistic headcanons (apart from the ‘stop diagnosing fictional characters with disabilities’, which literally reads as “I don’t want this character to be like you, I want them to be ‘normal’.”) , and it really gets on my nerves. Apparently, people never show the ‘ugly’ side of autism. They never really elaborate on what ‘ugly’ means, but I assume they are talking about meltdowns, self injurious behaviours and traits they seem to find annoying such as echolalia, vocal stimming and hand flapping.
Well, I guess autistic writers who do show the ‘ugly’ parts of autism don’t exist (sarcasm). Cyndi (butterflyinthewell on Tumblr) writes amazing fanfiction (her Ao3 account: https://archiveofourown.org/users/Cyndi) that features meltdowns, abuse and self injurious behaviour.
From my perspective, if you would care to read the following fanfictions, you might notice that I have also shown the ‘ugly’ side of autism. My autistic characters are autistic, and they struggle as well as succeed in life. Most of the time, however, it is not their autism that causes the struggle: it is the ableism they face. The following stories can all be found on my Ao3 account: https://archiveofourown.org/users/bookwormgir1LH/pseuds/bookwormgir1LH .
- In ‘Strange’, Harry Potter observes Arthur Weasley from an outsider’s perspective, and is often baffled by Arthur’s poor social skills, echolalia and stimming. He sees Arthur having self-harming meltdowns, hitting his hands against his head and banging his head on the wall.
- In ‘Different’, Neville Longbottom goes into sensory overload in the greenhouse and faints. Arthur is so overwhelmed at the Quidditch world cup that he bites his nails until they bleed. Hermione Granger cannot sleep at all without her weighted blanket and ends up having a breakdown. Luna Lovegood is bullied for being ‘weird’.
- In ‘Slur’, Arthur starts to shut down after Uncle Vernon calls him a ‘retard’. He shuts down and bites his fingernails and cuticles so badly it draws blood.
- In ‘Struggle’, Arthur was a victim of ableist violence as a teenager. This traumatised him, and he struggles to control his magic as a result. It also means magic explodes out of him when he has a meltdown, leaving Arthur terrified that a meltdown might seriously injure someone he loves. He cannot work without the stress causing a meltdown.
- In ‘Origins’, Arthur has poor motor functions (caused by dyspraxia) and has strong sensory sensitivities that make it very difficult for him to take Potions classes. He is beaten up and called slurs for acting ‘weird’. He accidentally offends people by being blunt and infodumps a lot.
- In ‘Strength’, Ron Manager is bullied and ridiculed for flapping his hands. He was bullied at school for being a ‘spastic’ and people imitate and mock his flapping like it is a joke. He can infodump about his special interests for hours if not stopped. His meltdowns are violent and self injurious – he punches walls and bangs his head hard enough to bruise it. When Tommy tries to restrain Ron (actually making the situation worse) Ron hits him in the head.
- In ‘Autistic Creative Challenge: The Goodies’, Tim goes nonverbal under stress and has problems with hyper empathy. He has nightmares about being bullied at school. He has echolalia and stims by spinning around, rocking and listening to his favourite record over and over again. His routines are very ridged and he gets distressed if they are changed.
- In ‘Torture’, Tim is sent to have Applied Behaviour Analysis. He is abused by the ABA ‘therapist’ and ends up going nonverbal and having a shutdown. Later on, he panics when reminded of the ‘therapy’ and has a meltdown.
Likewise, my mental illness headcanons don’t shy away from the ‘ugly’ stuff.
- In ‘Torment’, Ralph’s OCD terrorises him. He is constantly nauseous with anxiety and often ends up in tears because his intrusive thoughts are so bad. His main compulsion is biting his hand hard enough to leave bruises.
- In ‘Panic’, Lockhart has a panic attack so severe he loses feeling in his hands from hyperventilating and, even with a calming draught, it takes him almost an hour to calm down. He is left feeling ill, drained and embarrassed.
- In ‘Saved’ and ‘Trying Again’, Archie is severely depressed and suicidal. He self harms by cutting and has incredibly low self esteem.
- In ‘Bug’ and ‘Tears’, Remus has bulimia. He has swollen glands in his neck and calluses on the backs of his fingers from purging.
In conclusion, there are ‘ugly’ sides to disabilities and illnesses, but that doesn’t mean that the people who live with them shouldn’t strive for a bit of accurate representation (because, if we are occasionally represented, it is so full of harmful stereotypes that they might as well have not bothered). So, unless you actually want to read what actually neurodivergent people have to say, please stop talking over us on a topic that isn’t even about you.
A pissed off autistic young adult